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Can you share a house with someone who isn't green?

12/08/2011 - 20:08

It's an interesting and thorny issue.

Planet Green had a post about managing a relationship with someone with different environmental standards than you, but what if it's your housemate?

Rental accommodation is scarce in many areas right now and finding a rental property in a desired area can mean making compromises. Ideally starting your own lease means you can pick and choose the environmental attributes of your desired housemates.

Here's some suggestions to make it work:

Absolutes vs Compromises
What are your absolutes? Recycled toilet paper only? No meat? Organic veggies? These should be decided on very early, preferably before agreeing to move in  or getting someone in.

Make a list of what you are looking for, bearing in mind that no one is you and won't have the exact same standards necessarily. People have a very different idea of environmental consciousness, human rights, feminism etc etc.  Your housemate/s may also have a different income to you or different time constraints.

Possible questions:

  1. What's your definition of clean?
  2. What cleaning products do you use?
  3. Veggie/vegan or not? (including visitors)
  4. Flusher or mellow yellow?
  5. Are you interesting in bulk buying everyday items?
  6. What kinds of things do you like to cook?

Mine vs Communal
Shared food and shopping can be great until your housemate replaces your $7 organic chocolate with Nestle, work out what's shared and what's yours.

Make it fun!
People have different levels of environmental interest. Most people don't respond to lectures or statistics (especially in their own home). There are ways to engage people that are fun and can lead to all sorts of life changes.

  • Go to a Green film festival together.
  • Join a food co-op,
  • Get an organic veggie box delivered
  • Make your own jam and scones
  • Go to something like the Ceres markets each Saturday morning.
  • Invite friends around for a backyard clean up and veggie planting session  and worm farm building.
  • Have dinner parties where everyone brings a course or their favourite vegetable to share.
  • Have a house dinner once a week and enjoy each other's company.

Make things make sense
People will generally do things because they are convenient, habitual or make sense to them. I've had housemates who liked to leave lights and heating on all night. They liked having a 'cosy house'. Putting patchwork quilts around the living room meant keeping warm without constant heating in the evenings.

Putting the recyclables in the normal bin may stop if the recycle bin is easier to access.  Jugs of water with mint from the gardening the fridge and a new coffee pot may reduce the constant purchasing of two liter bottle of Coca-Cola. It's about changing the behaviour by making incentives to change.

Ultimately, communal living has a lot of advantages. Companionship, friendship, saving money, security, all sorts of things really. It can be worked at and enjoyed despite the challenges!